Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett has announced the historic expansion of HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) services, and the renaming of STD Clinics as Sexual Health Clinics. The expansion is part of the City’s Ending the Epidemic (ETE) plan, which includes $23 million in fiscal year 2017 and aims to reduce the number of new HIV infections in New York City to no more than 600 cases per year by 2020. With additional staff and expanded hours, the clinics will now break new ground by offering a revolutionary approach to medical treatment for New Yorkers at risk or newly diagnosed with HIV, as well as additional services to test and treat STIs.
SHC 5Among the new services is the JumpstART program, which, for the first time, provides anti-retroviral treatment and connection to care to patients newly diagnosed with HIV. Anti-retroviral medication controls the virus, helping people with HIV live healthier and longer lives and reducing the risk of transmitting HIV to others. The program is available at the Riverside, Fort Greene and Jamaica clinics and will soon be offered at all eight clinics. JumpstART receives $500,000 in funding from the M ∙A ∙C Cosmetics’ philanthropic arm, the M ∙A ∙C AIDS fund, through the Fund for Public Health, a charitable organization connected to the Health Department.
To ensure New Yorkers are aware of these new HIV and STI services, the Health Department will launch an ad campaign on Valentine’s Day, also known as National Condom Day. The new “We’ve Got You Covered” campaign sends a light-hearted, positive and non-judgmental message about maintaining sexual health by seeking prevention and treatment services. The ads will be placed citywide, especially in neighborhoods served by Sexual Health Clinics: Harlem, Morningside Heights, Morrisania, Crown Heights, Fort Greene, Corona, and Jamaica.
“With this expansion, New York City continues its tradition of being on the forefront of innovation for sexual health services,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “We must harness new strategies for prevention and treatment and make care easy to access, with dignity and respect. Today’s announcement builds on success to take NYC even closer to our goal of ending the HIV epidemic by 2020. All New Yorkers deserve healthy and happy sex lives.”
“Cities have long been at the forefront of responding to AIDS, and by focusing our resources on innovative programs and promoting rapid treatment and preventative care, we can realistically achieve New York City’s goal of Ending the Epidemic by 2020.” said Nancy Mahon, Senior Vice President for Global Philanthropy and Corporate Citizenship at The Estée Lauder Companies Inc. and Global Executive Director of the MAC AIDS Fund. “If we are going to end AIDS, we need to ensure all hands are on deck in getting diagnosed New Yorkers treated quickly and at-risk communities are supported on an ongoing basis.”
Specifically, the Health Department will also offer the following services at the eight Sexual Health Clinics:
· The largest PrEP program in the country Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a drug approved to prevent HIV in people who are at high risk for the infection. PrEP is being made available to at-risk populations who might not be reached otherwise. Starting PrEP as soon as the patient is ready to commit to its use also helps patients adhere to the medication and continue the daily regimen. PrEP initiation is currently available at the Central Harlem Sexual Health Clinic and will soon be at all clinics. Navigation and linkage for PrEP are available at all clinics.
· Full course of PEP The City’s clinics are now able to offer a full, 28-day course of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), making this emergency medication more convenient for patients at highest risk for HIV infection. Previously, our clinics offered PEP starter packs with referrals to complete the regimen. Now, the clinics administer the entire regimen, including all of the monitoring and follow up care, and can facilitate patient transition to PrEP.
· Improved patient navigation Navigating the health system is one of the most complicated aspects of managing or preventing HIV for patients. The Department has hired 20 staff who are dedicated to helping patients get linked to high-quality, long-term services for HIV care and prevention.
· Express visits for all and expanded hours STIs such as syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia often have no symptoms and can cause irreversible damage if left untreated. Anyone age 12 or older can now receive screening for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV, even if they have no symptoms. Seven clinics operate Monday through Friday, with Saturday hours available at Riverside and Fort Greene clinics.
· Counseling services All eight clinics have social workers onsite who can help patients with a variety of issues, including substance use and depression.
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· Quick start contraception and HPV vaccine Patients who are at risk of unintended pregnancy can “quick start” oral contraceptive pills or the Depo-Provera birth control shot at the Fort Greene clinic. All eight clinics will eventually offer same-day initiation of contraception with referral for longer term care. Clinics are also now offering the HPV vaccine for all patients who are eligible based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Today marks an important point along the path from science to policy to actual program implementation,” said Dr. Susan Blank, Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of STD Control and Prevention. “Our Sexual Health Clinics now do more than treat sexually transmitted infections (STIs); we are destination clinics for sexual health, providing a variety of effective prevention and treatment options for HIV and other STIs, as well as cancer prevention, pregnancy prevention, counseling services, and more. We are truly hubs of sexual health care for anyone who needs us. No matter who you are or what you’re into – we’ve got you covered!”
“Ending the epidemics of HIV and other STIs means overturning paradigms. The renaming of STD Clinics as ‘Sexual Health Clinics’ reflects their long-standing mission of supporting the sexual health of every New Yorker,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control. “Now that New York City is leaving disease behind and celebrating health, it’s time for the rest of the United States to follow. We will end these epidemics with love and respect, not stigma and fear.”
“The Fund for Public Health in New York City is excited to partner with MAC AIDS Fund and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on the JumpstART program to provide immediate treatment, including both clinical and support services, to patients newly diagnosed with HIV,” said Sara Gardner, Executive Director for the Fund for Public Health in New York City.
“Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, activists and public health officials have learned that we need to do more than treat a virus; fighting AIDS effectively requires engaging people as fully complex individuals,” said Jim Eigo of ACT UP NY. “Today, New York is officially declaring that fighting sexually transmitted infections means engaging New Yorkers as the sexual individuals we are. That recognition, backed by supportive, culturally sensitive policies, will bring the day we end AIDS in New York City much closer.”
“We are thrilled to see the many innovations that DOHMH is implementing to End the AIDS Epidemic here in New York. We are especially delighted with the City’s partnership with the community to see that we achieve this goal by 2020,” said Charles King, President and CEO of Housing Works.
“Out of the worst pandemic in the past century, HIV/AIDS, and in the city which was long its epicenter, New York City, a new model for sexual health services is being launched today,” said Mark Harrington, Executive Director of the Treatment Action Group (TAG). “Activists and members of New York’s many communities long affected by HIV, inequity, sexually-transmitted infections, or substance use will benefit greatly from NYC’s newly-named Sexual Health Clinics, with the promise of same-day initiation of HIV treatment, full courses of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), initiation of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), as well as a broad and crucial array of testing and treatment options, as well as contraceptive services, substance use intervention, and — crucially — health navigators to help people enroll into Medicaid or other care programs. We salute New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the leaders of the Department’s HIV and sexual health programs, the City and State funders whose support makes this new initiative possible, and are proud to have participated in the decades-long community mobilization and activism which have led to these changes, which will reduce health inequities, reduce new HIV infections and STDs, and make New York City’s communities healthier.”
“We applaud the innovative and comprehensive efforts in ending the epidemics of HIV and other STIs in New York City. NYC is a leader in developing supportive services in support of the sexual health of all New Yorkers and reducing the stigma in our diverse communities by renaming the STD Clinics as ‘Sexual Health Clinics’. The new Sexual Health Clinics will be promoting prevention services to communities most impacted. More importantly, we recognize that these efforts will contribute to meeting the goals of ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York by 2020,” said Guillermo Chacon, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS & founder of the Hispanic Health Network.
“Voces Latinas commends the expansion and renaming of the STD clinic in Corona Queens. Queens is the borough with the most foreign born and most uninsured. It is vital to have expanded, affordable medical services for everyone including our immigrant communities,” said Nathaly Rubio-Torio, Executive Director of Voces Latinas, Corp. “As an organization located in Jackson Heights Queens that has served immigrant Latinos for over 13 years, we are fully aware of the various healthcare needs and the barriers that keep our community from accessing medical care, in particular sexual healthcare. Among these barriers is stigma. Renaming the clinic to capture the sexual health needs and expanding services will certainly help connect many more Latinos to care and treatment. Voces Latinas fully supports and applauds the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Bureau of STD Prevention and Control.”
“At a time when many at the national level seem to want us to go backward, we need to move forward, using evidence and smart investments to improve public health,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “The numbers tell the story: sexual health clinics help stem the spread of sexually transmitted infections. I’m proud that our city has a nation-leading public health agency making these investments and doing this work.”
“Our efforts to end the epidemic are dependent on ensuring access to quality care for all New Yorkers, whether they’re newly diagnosed, living with HIV, or simply at risk. The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s new effort to expand services at the newly christened Sexual Health Clinics will provide thousands of New Yorkers with essential resources in a stigma-free environment. I’m grateful to Mayor de Blasio, Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett, and Assistant Commissioner Dr. Demetre Daskalakis for this new initiative, which brings us one step closer to ending the scourge of HIV/AIDS in New York City,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman.
New Yorkers should talk openly with their doctors about their sexual practices and about getting screened for HIV. For additional information about the City’s low- to no-cost Sexual Health Clinics, please visit nyc.gov/health/clinics. No appointment is necessary. Anyone 12 years and older can be seen at the clinics, regardless of immigration status.
New Yorkers can also call 311 or text TESTNYC to 877877 to find a local HIV testing site, including any of the eight Sexual Health Clinics. To find a location that offers free NYC Condoms, call 311 or visit nyc.gov/condoms. To learn more about condom use and sexual health or to download the free NYC Condom Finder, please visit facebook.com/NYCcondom.
In December 2015, the Health Department launched #PlaySure – a novel health marketing campaign to prevent HIV and other STIs, followed by Stay Sure in 2016. The goal of this sex-positive campaign is to reach all New Yorkers and encourage them to choose their preferred HIV and STI prevention tools, regardless of their HIV status. To complement these efforts, the Health Department developed an innovative safer sex toolkit, the #PlaySure Kit. The #PlaySure Kit holds everything New Yorkers need to play sure – condoms, lubricant and their preferred prevention pill (PrEP, HIV meds, and/or birth control). Nearly 110,000 kits have been distributed to New Yorkers since World AIDS Day 2015, when it was originally unveiled. The kit helps New Yorkers design a safer sex plan that fits their lifestyle and needs. #PlaySure Kits are available for free at the Sexual Health Clinics as well as participating community organizations and many community events throughout the year. Distribution locations are also available by calling 311.